Study Links HPV to Lung Cancer

Though the Louisville study does not discuss the efficacy of the HPV vaccine in treating lung cancer, the vaccine targets the same cancer-causing type of the virus found in the lung cancer samples -- type 16.

"Type 16 is the one that causes cancer," Streicher said. "As more of these studies are completed, we're learning that the vaccine would clearly be preventive in many different kinds of cancers, not just cervical."

Though the vaccine has been approved by the FDA, and according to Streicher, "is grounded in solid science," many conservative parents have opposed giving the vaccine to their preteen and teenage daughters, the target group for the vaccine.

"We don't need to be vaccinating children against something that can be prevented with a behavior change," said Kimberly Martinez, executive director of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, a nonprofit group that advocates teaching children not to have sex rather than to have safe sex.

"We have to teach kids values and boundaries," she said. "If you give kids the vaccine, you're giving them a license to go have sex. It's like if you teach a kid to use a condom, you know what they're going to do with it," she said.

Maria McKnight, a mother of two from Tea, S.D., said the risk of lung cancer, like the risk of cervical cancer, does not change her opposition to vaccinating her 7-year-old daughter.

"HPV is completely 100 percent preventable. I don't see the point of putting her through the risk of the vaccine," she said. "In the same way I protect my kids from lung cancer by teaching them not to smoke or do drugs, I can protect them from HPV by teaching them not to have sex."

"I'd love to see cervical cancer wiped off the planet," she said. "I've watched someone die of lung cancer and would love to see that gone too. But we're talking about stopping a sexually transmitted disease. Stopping the behavior is the best way to stop the disease."

If HPV is increasingly linked with other forms of cancer and the vaccine becomes available to boys, McKnight said she would not give her 11-year-old son the vaccine for the same reasons.

Some parents remain opposed to the vaccine, citing side effects and fears that it has not been tested thoroughly enough to know its long-term effects. When the vaccine was initially introduced, some states attempted to pass legislation making it required for children to enter school. Only Virginia has passed a law mandating the vaccine, which will go into effect next October.

Physicians who advocate for the vaccine said concerns about premarital sex should not trump health.

"Whether or not HPV is associated with sex is irrelevant," Streicher said. "Anyone opposed to the vaccine doesn't understand it, or has an agenda. The vaccine is grounded in solid science."

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